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Washington State Sheriff: ‘We Have Constitutional Duties with Our Oath of Office’

By: Robert Davis

Sheriffs in Washington State are caught in a catch-22 between the state’s sweeping gun control rules, Initiative 1639, and waiting until the courts decide whether or not the provisions contained therein are Constitutional.

“The bottom line is that we have Constitutional duties with our oath of office,” Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers told Gunpowder Magazine. “There’s not anything for sheriffs to enforce yet. Other than the laws sounding good, there’s not much we can do.”

I-1639 was approved on the Washington State ballot during the November 2018 midterm elections. The initiative raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, adds expanded background checks and a 10-day waiting period to acquire a gun, and creates firearm storage requirements. These mandates are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2019.

Magers contends that the laws were written and sold to the public in such a way that they distort the duties of a law enforcement officer. The police do not play a part in selling weapons; they do not handle background checks – those are left to the National Crime Information Center within the Federal Bureau of Investigations – and they cannot legally knock on doors to ensure firearm owners are securing their weapons properly. Such action would violate the Fourth Amendment.

“Hypotheticals aside, there really is no practical scenario in which we can enforce any of 1639,” Magers said. “Just because you start an initiative and get a bunch of signatures doesn’t mean it’s right.”

Sheriffs in Okanogan, Cowlitz, Douglas, Benton, Pacific, Stevens, Yakima, Wahkiakum, Mason, and Klickitat Counties also said they will wait until the courts decide on the legality of the laws.

Shortly after the initiatives were passed, Gunpowder Magazine reported that the Washington State Sheriffs Association (WSSA), Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS), and Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) did not support them.

GPM also reported that Washington Police Chief Loren Culp regards the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment as superseding the state’s gun control initiatives. Culp declared:

“I’ve taken three public oaths, one in the US Army and Two as a police officer,” Culp wrote on his Facebook page. “All of them included upholding and defending the Constitution of the United States of America. The second amendment says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. As long as I am Chief of Police, no Republic Police Officer will infringe on a citizen’s right to keep and Bear Arms, PERIOD!”

The National Rifle Association and Second Amendment Foundation both filed a lawsuit against the laws in the U.S. District Court of Seattle, arguing the laws violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments and violates a gun seller’s rights under the Commerce Clause.

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him on Twitter @Davisonthebeat with tips or comments at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.